Nikon V1 part two. Wet performance.

Just adding a bit more information about the Nikon V1.  I did not get it wet.  I did take it to our first Annual Rollingwood Pool Masters Swim Meet this morning to catch some photos of people swimming fast.  Yesterday's post contained photos that were all shot using the basic 10-30mm kit lens.  Today, all the images were shot with the little telephoto lens, 30-110mm.  Now, if someone tells you that these lenses are too big I'm here to tell you that person has been off their meds for too long.  Both lenses are in the size ballpark of the Olympus Pen lenses, for equivalent focal length ranges, and at least one quarter the size of lenses with similar angles of view offered in APS-C camera systems and full frame camera systems.  Tiny.  Really.  There is one lens, which I do not own, that ranges from 10mm-100mm and it's big but it's pretty much a specialty lens for video.  It's still not overly large for what it offers.....

 So I stuck the lens on, set the camera for auto ISO (between 100-400), the camera on A for aperture and I was using the mechanical shutter in the continuous mode which gives the camera operator about 5fps for what seems like an unlimited number of frames.  I could have used the silent, electronic shutter at 60fps but it reduces the file size and is vulnerable to the "jello" effect that can be seen on DSLR's that shoot video.  I mostly used the lens at its widest aperture and let the camera compensate with shutter speed and ISO shift.  I used the matrix mode for metering and never touched the exposure compensation dial.
The camera locks focus quickly and very rarely hunts.  Certainly less so than my Canon 5Dmk2.  While the camera is fast on frame to frame performance the shutter has a bit of lag and I found myself having to make some big adjustments in timing compared to using my Canon 1Dmk2N for shooting swimming.  On my first tries I was missing the peak of action by 40 or 50 milliseconds.  Once I learned to predict the moment my keeper rate rose.

I haven't shot RAW yet because I'm not sure if I have my hands on conversion software to make the files work in Lightroom or PhotoShop CS5.  The Jpeg files are the "fine" setting and there is very little to select in terms of fine tuning.  In fact I can't find any sub-menus to change things like contrast, saturation and sharpness.  What squirts out of the camera and into Lightroom are files that are very well exposed but somewhat low contrast vis-a-vis the Olympus files I'm used to. (And with the Olympus cameras there much be 813,000 possible setting combinations for the Jpegs.....).  Since the files are nice and flat they accept a good amount of nudging without going nuts.  I pull up the blacks by about ten percent in levels, add a bit of contrast with curves and push up the vibrance control in Lightroom about 10 points.  I'll keep hunting for more user controls but I have a sneaking suspicion that, once all the Adobe products are updated with the latest raw information,  I'll shoot this camera as a raw machine.

 The thing you notice after your first hour with the camera is just how light and small the rig is compared to our traditional cameras.  And how deep the buffer is.  You can shoot and shoot and you'll never wait for the camera to catch up.
Nice high elbow technique.  Just an observation.

I haven't played around with some of the more modern settings like the one that shoots ultra fast and then presents you with the "best" four frames.  But I'm happy with the files I'm getting from the more pedestrian settings.  A quick aside not related to capturing swimming:  If you set the camera to electronic shutter and turn off the sound effects in the menu the camera becomes absolutely silent when shooting.  There is no "click," no mirror slap noise, no fake motor drive noise, nothing.  The perfect courtroom camera if Nikon decides to come out with a few fast primes.

This is coach Chris.  He was an All American at UT Austin.  He stood up on a sleepy Sunday morning and banged out a 1:45 200 free.  I thought that was amazing.  Loving the shadows from the backstroke flags.... 

I love the way the meter locks in and handles dappled sunlight.

Once I got the lag time figured out I was able to pretty consistently catch the moments I had in mind.

I shot 484 frames this morning, in between my volunteer duties of timing and counting laps for a swimmer in a distance event. (And coffee drinking.  And bagel consumption.)  The camera meter (which reads out in percentages) showed that I still had an 80% charge left.  Not bad at all.  I may go against twenty years of tradition and NOT buy a second battery.....

 The three frames above are a sequence and it was easy to capture once you get the cadence of the camera down.  I need to figure out how to turn off the instant review function if I'm going to use the camera for serious work.  David's a darn good 200 butterfly swimmer.  I think that beats having a cool camera any day of the week.
All in all I think the lens performs very well and the camera does a good job focusing it.  I'm pretty impressed for an optic that gives me roughly the same field of view as a 90 to 300mm zoom on a full frame camera and costs only $249 WITH BUILT IMAGE STABILIZATION.  

I've read a bunch of comments on the web about these new cameras and it's amazing (and depressing).  According to the "experts" this camera can't do much.  And what it can do they suspect it can't do well.  If you really want to know what a camera can do take one out and shoot some images with it.  Because, as they say on the web, "Your Mileage May Vary."

The smartest thing Nikon could do is to run program where people can come into a store and borrow a camera and lens package for 24 hours with no strings attached.  I think they'd have a hard time getting them back out of people's hands.  

Note to the highly literal and people with "JTCD" (jumping to conclusions disorder):  Just because I like this camera doesn't mean I think all other cameras are bad, deficient, unusable, etc.  Nor does it mean that I'm putting all of my other cameras in a box and heading down to Goodwill to donate them.  It does mean I'll be shooting with it for a while to see what I can squeeze out of it.  And then I'll turn on the video and squeeze some more.  This doesn't mean that anyone else has to like it.  Really.  



Marino Mannarini said...

Kirk, i had the chance to play with a V1 with the fixed prime for about an half hour athe local shop the day it was launched. I was pleasantly surprised by the EVF, handling, and apparent AFS response in low light, i was pointing it against the darkest recess i could see under the shop counters, and similar dark areas. It never faltered. I was surprised, really, and immediately thought the video side could be worth a look.
always try something for yourself. How true!

DrMickey said...

OK, Kirk, I will admit it...the only hesitation I have is the 10 megapixels spec.
I've read both parts of your review and the post you made on the dpreview Nikon 1 forum, and I have also done my homework, looking at the videos and the 1 V1 manual. This looks like a camera I would love to own, but there's that 10 megapixel thing...
I shoot with a PENTAX K-5 (16 megapixel) and my last DSLR with a 10 mp spec was the Nikon D-80.
My two P&S cameras are the Canon G11 and the Panasonic LX5W (both 10 megapixel) and I am OK with that spec because they are what they are; P&S cameras.
But if I am going to drop $1200 on the V1 2-lens kit, my instincts tell me that that's a lot of cash for a low-res camera.
Any thoughts?

Timo said...

Hey Kirk, check out the Picture Control settings for contrast, saturation and sharpness etc. Quickly counting I came to 19100 combinations. Seems to be identical with Nikon DSLRs. See manual page 132

James Weekes said...

Poor Thom Hogan has been the only one defending this camera (system) until you. I have just taken delivery of a Lumix G3 so I am out of the hunt for a while (I do love the G3 and the G2) but this looks like a sweet little deal. As you say, if some primes show up it'll be a great idea. Nikon does make lenses too don't they?

Anyway, thanks for the true test.

By the way a 1:45 200?!?! Does he have webbed feet?

Kirk, Photographer/Writer said...

Timo, thanks very much. Overlooked.

Kirk, Photographer/Writer said...

DrMickey, I can't decide for you. I use lots of low res cameras like the Canon 1Dmk2's and I like them a lot. If all your stuff is Big/Serious then it might not be the camera for you!

Unknown said...

After the last article, I had to head to my local camera store to play with one of these cameras; too bad they only had the J1. I am definitely sold on the system though, even with my dislike of small cameras, this feels good in my hands.

I found myself trying to put the J1 up to my eye all the time. This could be my street shooting camera if I ever decide to branch out from my landscapes; it has the perfect size.

Tom Williams said...

Nikon Capture NX2 version 2.2.8 can convert Nikon 1 raw files. If you're in a hurry to evaluate raw performance, it might be worth the trouble to install the 60 day free trial, assuming that the 2.2.8 update can be applied to the 2.2.6 trial version.

Unknown said...

I am sold on this system after reading your posts. I shoot a few PGA events each year - the silent mode and the 2.7x with an Fmount adapter could be very beneficial. And this also seems like the perfect system for personal stuff - family, travel, etc.

My one question: Have you had a chance to shoot anything at iso 1600 or higher?



Craig Yuill said...

I was in a local camera store the day after the V1 had arrived. Unfortunately they didn't have a charged battery in the camera so I couldn't see how it operated. I was a little surprised about how chunky it was, given the size of its sensor.

I don't know if this is a great test of ergonomics, but I didn't care for the feel of the camera when I held it with just my right hand, something which I admittedly do very infrequently when shooting. Still, it's what I do when testing for ergonomics. I'm also not happy with reports that the F-mount adapter will apparently work only with Nikon AF-S lenses. I hope this is wrong. I had hoped to use my legacy Nikon-mount lenses with any new interchangeable-lens camera I buy.

But I am pleased to see this camera can produce nice, sharp photos. Thanks for sharing your V1 photos and experiences. Please, keep showing us what this camera can do Kirk.

andrewt said...

Kurt, Thanks for the more info. Looks very compelling! Have you printed any of the pictures? I'm finding that my small sensor cameras tend to print more "flat" than my APS cameras, but that is just printing files processed for online viewing (they look about equal in that context), not necessarily for printing. My current photography education is all about printing. Lots to learn.

So, I know that you like the V1 and the E-P3, but with the standard kit zoom available fore each one, if that is all that you used, which direction would you go? Not trying to pin you down, just trying to find a good "family camera" for my own needs where my primes don't quite fit.

Thank you!

Kirk, Photographer/Writer said...

Right this moment I'd say to get the EP-3 and the VF-2. It's mature, well designed, very customizable and looks sexy. Also, the files are good. I don't have enough experience with the V1 yet to give a firm "yes."

Spiney said...

I was at Photo Pro Expo in NYC last Thursday and this Nikon system had a lot of buzz going on. And the vendors there who were selling cameras were selling these. I must admit that I didn't pay too much attention because I've been saving for a year for a D7000 and in ready to buy this week. I did look at the Fuji X10 and X100. Fuji had 30x40's displayed with images from their small camera. The amount of detail was incredible.

I'm thrilled you are still blogging. Your my favorite and I read every post. Per your review I purchased a Canon G11 a few years back. For now that's my carrying around camera. Thank you, Dave

Unknown said...

Thanks for the posts on your experiences with this camera. It's nice to hear someone also putting the jump to conclusion crowd in their place as well. It gets old listening not only to the discussion forum cry-babies rant about this and that, but it's sad to see even the 'pro' review types chime in on a camera they've never even held yet. I've been making some nice images with this camera too and I'm very happy to have it. I have no second thoughts about having made this purchase! My samples are in the most recent posts here: http://openbloom.blogspot.com/

Bold Photography said...

an interesting review---

but, does this camera 'get in the way', or does it feel 'natural' when shooting with it?

Kirk, Photographer/Writer said...

Le Bold, Don't know yet. I'm still in the "maiden voyage" phase. Give me a week or so to see what it can really do. Already wishing for a fast normal prime......sigh.

Matthew said...

A great read, these last two posts. I was hoping to see something from you about this camera, since all I really hear is this bizarre sensor size / dynamic range techno-chatter on the web. Maybe this is oversimplifying things, but I just love how easy it is these days to find a camera that takes really, really nice photos. That is all. Maybe people are just upset that all these recent developments in camera tech just make them more responsible than ever for their bad photos. Just sayin'.

Kirk, Photographer/Writer said...

It's a cool camera. They are all cool cameras. You just have to discover the coolness in each one.

Jasmo said...


Thank you for the wonderful review of the V1. You always have an excellent eye in composition, color, and lighting, and the photos you posted fully demonstrated that.

The net is full of reviews of the Nikon V1/J1, most of them extremely negative. You are absolutely correct in saying that majority of those people have never used the camera, and expressed their opinions based purely on its looks and its specification.

As a photography hobbyist and a designer, I thoroughly enjoyed using the V1 after using it for a week. I particularly appreciate the design aesthetics going into shaping the camera, even though it was pronounced as the ugliest thing on earth by many. It looks and functions like something that Dieter Rams would have produced if Braun ever sells camera equipment. The lines are clean. No unnecessary adornment of any kind. Every button and orifice is reduced to its absolute minimum to perform its function. It has excellent tactile quality, as exemplied by the weight and balance of the camera, and the zoom ring of its lens. The menu system and the scroll wheel looks and functions like the orginal Apple iPod.

Consider the target audience at which Nikon is aiming with this camera, they have done a good job in not overloading it with features. In product design, it is very difficult to strike a balance between what features to put in and what to leave out. The V1/J1, in my opinion, has achieved that balance.

And the camera takes damn good pictures!